SEATTLE (Dec. 21, 2013) – Penn State captured its sixth NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship and fifth in the last seven years after defeating Wisconsin 25-19, 26-24, 20-25, 25-23 on Saturday evening in KeyArena in Seattle.
Penn State, seeded second in the tournament, concluded the year with a 35-3 record while No. 12 Wisconsin had its Cinderella postseason run stopped one match shy of its first title. The Badgers ended the year with a 28-10 record, which includes three losses to Penn State. The match represented the first-ever all-Big Ten title match.
Penn State was led by Ariel Scott with 21 kills, while Katie Slay chipped in 14 kills with a .481 hitting efficiency to go with two block solos and a block assist. Tournament most outstanding player Micha Hancock tallied 48 assists, five kills, three aces, 16 digs and two block assists. Megan Courtney chipped in five kills and a team-tying-high 20 digs. Nia Grant added four kills and four block assists. Dominique Gonzalez chipped in 20 digs and three aces for the Nittany Lions.
Wisconsin was paced by Dominque Thompson with 16 kills and five block assists. Demi Morales contributed 15 kills, two block assists and eight digs. Haleigh Nelson charted five kills, three block assists and an ace. Lauren Carlini set 39 assists to go with four block assists, two kills and seven digs.
Penn State’s offense netted a 62-46 advantage in kills to go with a .206 hitting efficiency to the Badgers’ .172. The Nittany Lions held a 78-73 margin in digs to offset the Badgers’ 14-9 advantage in blocks.
Hancock was joined on the all-tournament team by Penn State’s Scott, Slay and McClendon. Wisconsin’s Carlini and Morales were named to the all-tournament team along with University of Washington’s Krista Vansant.
Penn State had four players with NCAA championship match experience from the 2010 season when the Nittany Lions won the tournament. McClendon was the most outstanding player from the 2010 NCAA championship team, while Scott, Slay and Maddie Martin were all contributing factors on the 2010 championship squad. Penn State was playing its ninth title match and now has a 6-3 record in the final match of the season.
In contrast, Wisconsin has reached the NCAA semifinal round once before, that being a second-place finish in 2000. The Badgers had not earned a spot into the NCAA tournament since 2007.
After falling behind 9-7 in the opening set, Penn State notched three straight points with two kills from Slay around a McClendon attack to take its first lead of the set at 10-9. Courtney slammed kill to lift the Nittany Lions to a 14-12 advantage, which was extended to a three-point cushion at 16-13 following a Wisconsin attack error. The Badgers chipped off two points with a Penn State service error and Wisconsin kill at 16-15. However, the Nittany Lions prompted the Badgers into a timeout down 18-15 after consecutive kills by McClendon and Slay. Out of the break, Slay and Hancock tallied consecutive kills to push the Nittany Lion lead to 20-15. Courtney gave Penn State set point at 24-18 with a block. Scott capped the set with a power attack at 25-19. Penn State out-hit Wisconsin .350 to .152 for the set as Slay tallied six kills to lead the Nittany Lions.
After Wisconsin scored the first point of the second set, Penn State scored six unanswered points on Hancock’s serve that included a kill and ace by her, three Scott kills and a Wisconsin error. The Nittany Lions extended their lead to 10-4 with a Slay kill and Gonzalez ace. Wisconsin answered with a 3-0 run with Nelson picking up two block assists with Thomas and Chapman at 11-8. The Badgers continued to charge back, tying the score at 14-all with a Thompson kill around two Penn State errors. Wisconsin took the lead back at 18-17 with a Nelson-Carlini block combo followed by a Courtney attack error prompting a Penn State timeout. The Badgers extended their lead to 19-17 with a Chapman kill out of the break. Penn State knotted the set at 21-all with a McClendon kill after a Wisconsin attack error. Out of a Badger timeout, Scott downed a kill after a Wisconsin free ball to lift Penn State in front 22-21. Wisconsin responded with a Morales kill after a Hancock ball handling error to put Penn State down 23-22 at its second timeout. Penn State saved one set point and went in front 25-24 with a Scott kill after a Wisconsin service error. Scott finished the set with a cross-court winner at 26-24. Scott totaled eight kills in the second set to power the Nittany Lions, who hit .256 for the set.
Penn State scored the opening two points of the third set with a Hancock kill prior to a Wisconsin error. The Nittany Lions extended their advantage to 5-1 with a McClendon kill followed by consecutive Wisconsin attack errors. The Badgers snapped the streak with a 4-0 run of their own with twoThompson kills around two Penn State errors to level the score at 5-all. Penn State gained a two-point cushion at 10-8 with a Grant block followed by a Wisconsin error. The Badgers rallied to tie the score at 11-all with a Morales block. Wisconsin used a 5-0 run to establish a 16-12 lead, highlighted by two Morales, two Penn State errors and a Thompson block prompting Penn State to call timeout. Out of the break, Wisconsin added another point to the run with a Morales kill off the block touch at 17-12. Penn State whittled its deficit to 18-15 with a Courtney block after a Wisconsin service error. Thompson put up a block to inch Wisconsin to a 23-18 advantage, leading Penn State to call timeout. Wisconsin captured the set 25-20 on a Penn State service error. Although Wisconsin hit only .108 with 10 attack errors, Penn State was held to a .029 efficiency in the third set.
Wisconsin built a 10-7 advantage with a 4-0 run in the fourth set with a Thomas and Nelson combining on two blocks, Morales scoring a kill and Penn State serving long. The Nittany Lions knocked two points off the deficit with a McClendon kill following a Wisconsin error. Penn State squared the set at 11-all with kills from McClendon and Scott, then McClendon and Scott followed with back-to-back kills to yield a 13-11 Nittany Lion advantage. Wisconsin answered with a Morales kill and Penn State error to tie the score at 13-all. Scott ended a long rally with a kill and Slay followed with a monster block to put the Nittany Lions in front by two at 15-13. After Wisconsin called a timeout, the Badgers went in front 17-15 with a 4-0 run with kills from Carlini, Thompson and Chapman around a Thompson block. Slay stopped the run with a kill and Gonzalez served an ace to knot the score at 17-all. Wisconsin regained a two-point cushion at 20-18 with a Carlini-Nelson block followed by a Penn State attack error. The Badgers increased their lead to 22-19 with a Penn State service error and Chapman ace that trickled off the net before Penn State used its second timeout. Hancock served an ace after a Wisconsin service error to cut the Badger lead to 23-22. After a Wisconsin timeout, Slay won a long rally with an overpass kill to tie the score at 23-all leading to a second Badger timeout. Out of the break, Hancock served her third ace of the match to give Penn State match point at 24-23 and McClendon ended the match with a kill at 25-23.